Take a look at the picture. You have probably walked past these railings a hundred times and never given them a second thought. Why would you? They are black London railings; move on, nothing to see here.
But wait, take a second look. Why are they shaped with that kink at either end? Some design quirk? Enough of the mystery, what you’re looking at is a small but not insignificant part of London’s World War 2 history.
At the start of the war railings across London were torn down to form the raw material to make the bombs, guns and planes so desperately needed to aid the war effort.
In 1940, the London Blitz got underway; bombs rained down on the capital. Firefighters fought the blazes and ambulance crews removed the dead and rescued the injured. Are you getting it now? Yes, these fences were once stretchers; thousands were made (from steel so they could be easily cleaned) and left unwanted when the war ended.
Someone, and it’s unclear who that was, joined the dots and suggested welding the unwanted relics into stretcher fences. They can still be found on housing estates in Kennington, Peckham, Brixton, and Deptford.
Some are now in very poor repair and a campaign has been launched to protect them. Visit the Stretcher Railing Society’s website to find out where they are located and what’s being done to rescue this piece of London history that’s hiding in plain sight.